Devotional Arabic

Facilitating the Learning of Arabic for Devotional Studies

تَيْسِيْرُ تَعَلُّمِ اللُّغَةِ العَرَبِيَّةِ لِلدِّراسَةِ التَّعَبُّدِيَّة

Notes for Session 2.

Intro to Grammar: Pattern Recognition

During our second session, we spoke on the importance of pattern recognition as it relates to learning any language especially Arabic. Here is a color-coded example to high some important patterns in our reading of Ibn Abī Zayd’s Risālah:

color-coded chart of subject/object relation in Arabic sentences

Subject (explicit) #1; Subject (implicit) #1
Direct object (explicit) #1; Direct object (implicit) #1
Direct object#2 (explicit); Direct object (implicit)
Subject (explicit) #2; Subject (implicit) #2
Specialcase(direct object/indirect subject); Indirect object

Intro to Grammar: Deep Dive

So what's happening in our example above? What have have are a series of repeating patterns, of explicit subjects with explicit direct objects and implicit subjects acting on implicit direct (or indirect, but that’s later) objects.

الحمد لله الذّي اِبْتَدَأَ الإنسان

In this passage, Allah is the explicit subject (meaning, the subject is mentioned/referred to directly by name) and the recipient (direct object) of the action is also explicitly mentioned: mankind. This differs from,

وصَوَّرَهُ في الأرحام بحكمته

where the subject/doer of the action is still the same (Allah) but is now implicit, meaning the subject (Allah) is not mentioned specifically with the verb, or verbs in this case, “to shape”. Similarly, the direct object/recipient of the action is no longer explicitly stated but rather is referred to through a pronoun suffix attached to the end of the verb. Note how there is no intervening particle between the verb “to shape” and the pronoun suffix referring to “mankind”. This maintains the grammatical effect of the object still being directly acted upon (mankind is still “shaped” by Allah) but Allah is not (and need not be explicitly) mentioned nor does he need to be; one can refer back to the original declarative statement (الحمد لله الذّي اِبْتَدَأَ الإنسان) and then each subsequent و acting as much like a comma as the word “and”.

The same rule applies to “mankind” but instead of subjects we’re now speaking of direct objects. This is a common style repeated throughout the Qur’an where the subject is stated explicitly then referred to implicitly and vice versa with direct objects. Let’s look at the beginning of Surah al-Shams:

Then, in the following passage, we see the subject stay the same but with a new direct object:

In “He guides whomever He chooses success for from His grace”, the subject remains the same (Allah) but the recipient/direct object (the one receiving Allah’s guidance) has changed. Not only has it changed but it’s also unknown, whereas in the initial statement the direct object was known in that it was all of mankind. Think of it like this: we know that whoever Allah guides will be successful but we just don’t know who that is in its totality. It could be anyone (though, implicitly, not everyone!) The reason this may seem confusing is because the word من (“who”) doesn’t change its voweling no matter how it’s acted upon whereas إنسان (“mankind”) can take a faṭḥah, ḍammah, or kasrah as its voweling on the final letter.

Intro to Grammar: Special Case

This one is a bit more confusing (as if you are confused enough as it is!). When Ibn Abi Zayd writes,

and then later on adds to it,

what we have here is the word المؤمنين being both the direct object of the implicit subject (Allah, for Allah is the one “making it easy”) but then being the explicit subject which the verb فآمَنُوا implicitly refers to (it’s the believers doing “the believing”). From this point forward (فآمَنُوا) the subject of the rest of the paragraph is “the believers” and we can see the various things they act on.

Extra Resources

You can download a copy of Session 2 notes as a PDF here.

I've also made an audio recording with some remarks about the above lesson.You can also listen to/download the mp3 here.

Don't forget the Arabic Flashcard mobile app. In sha'Allah, it will help memorize the vocabulary from Lesson 1. This link is only for the reading, The Risālah of Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī. I will upload the other readings' vocab shortly.